JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Platinum group metals (PGMs) as global decarbonisation and environmental, social and governance (ESG) enablers have arguably never been a hotter topic globally, which will be highlighted at the upcoming in-person conference of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) at Sun City on November 2 and 3.
Southern Africa’s PGMs endowment plays hugely into the current global insistence on creating a greener world, which will not be possible without the deployment of the catalytic metals that come out of the PGMs basket.
In addition, the SAIMM will be striving for maximum collaboration during the event, given the far-reaching value chain of PGMs.
“They all play a critical role – in hydrogen, in fuel cells, in all of the future generation metals,” SAIMM mining technical programme chairperson Gary Lane emphasised from London during a Zoom interview with Mining Weekly. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)
Ahead of a greener-world-themed eighth International PGMs event, ESG and sustainability (ESGS) have assumed sky-high importance to business and society in the wake of climate change destruction, ever-widening inequality, global uncertainty and increasing economic risk.
A key speaker at the event is past SAIMM president and current chairperson of the ESGS interest group, Gordon Smith, who is of the view that ESGS needs to achieve the same status as safety.
“Ultimately, ESGS, or responsible mining, needs to achieve the same status as safety and become a fundamental part of our mining DNA, and the way we behave as professionals,” is a point Smith drives home forcefully.
Other key speakers include Anglo American Platinum’s Fahmida Smith, who will talk on the role that PGMs will play in our future world, along with the social requirements of the future world.
Dr Tsakani Mthombeni, executive: sustainable development at Implats, will be talking about ESG and beyond, Anglo American’s Stephen Bullock will focus on how PGMs play into the circular economy, and SFA Oxford CEO Henk de Hoop will show how the different players rank against each other in the ESG world.
A function at Sun City’s Valley of the Waves is designed to provide maximum opportunity for people to interact and converse, which is viewed as crucial at this time of global green momentum.
Mining Weekly: What does the conference aim to achieve in relation to the current state of the PGMs industry?
The SAIMM is 125 years old and we've looked at reinventing what the SAIMM stands for, and one of the key things is around collaboration. Key is bringing parties together, because there's the integration of the mining value chain from the suppliers through to fuel cells downstream and research, so the conference aims to bring people together to collaborate and talk to also open people's eyes to what the potential is. Historically, the conference has been very focused on the mining side but the value stream of PGMs is long, right from the mining of underground or opencast PGMs, all the way to the downstream beneficiation uses of the different metals, the research being done. It's bringing all those parties together to focus on the whole value stream and the benefits to South Africa in the PGMs industry, because if we’ve got more than 80% of the known PGM reserves in the world, and the PGMs are really the only true 100% green decarbonisation avenue, imagine the opportunity if we were very much more strategic around the positioning of the country on the fuel cells, on the generation of hydrogen, so very much about collaboration.
What sort of green flags will you be flying at the eighth International PGMs conference to emphasise your green theme?
We’ve got quite a number of really good speakers in the first session and which runs for most of the first day, all around ESG, the circular economy, the impact of ESG, talking about how PGMs fit into the future world. You'll find all the speakers are all focused on the greener world, the role only PGMs play in hydrogen generation, in fuel cells and other potential markets that we're still doing research on globally.
Why has there been such a big gap between your last PGMs conference and this one?
SAIMM responded rapidly to the pandemic. We went online with a whole series of webinars within about three weeks of the pandemic, so it had a major impact, but like globally, it accelerated the adoption of digital. We started off with having weekly webinars. I think probably 6 000 delegates have watched SAIMM webinars in the last two years since the pandemic hit, and most of our conferences went to digital and to what we call hybrid, where there were small groups within the regulations, and digital. The PGMs conference is such an important conference for South Africa that we felt it wouldn't work to be a digital conference, so we actually delayed the conference that was due for 2021, and we shifted it out.
And what, in your view, should be the main takeaway from this conference?
I always like to think that people should leave with a call for action, and I think the call for action is for people to realise that the South African mining industry is so critical to the South African economy and to the global economy. The realisation of the importance of PGMs to the greener world, the need for collaboration, and making PGMs a strategic priority for the country should be the key takeaways in my view.